Advertising and Marketing

Solo craftsman gets advice on niche marketing. May 4, 2005

Looking for any advice on marketing/advertising. We're a small one man shop (sometimes two if I'm helping). We're finishing our second kitchen and I'm looking to get the word out about our services. We make custom furniture, kitchens, mantels, and molding if needed (good old W & H). Any avenues for building up more clients that's proven effective for you?

Forum Responses
(Business Forum)
From contributor M:
I started as a one man shop several years ago and used our local Welcome Wagon as a good source of new business. I think there are a bunch of different Welcome Wagon organizations, but the one in our area has worked out quite well. They visit people in new homes and people in new homes always need furniture, etc. Unfortunately, it all depends on the individual calling on new residents. In our immediate area it's been real good, but I tried another area and had no results. We do Yellow Pages too, and have had some success, but not as much as the Welcome Wagon. Where are you located? Near a big city? I think that helps a lot.

From contributor A:
There is a great market for the newly retired or just about to retire people moving into these 55 and older golf communities all over the place. The track builders do not offer anything out of the norm. They need home offices, entertainment centers, walk in closets, etc. I have found that most people who move to these facilities are not originally from the area so they have no word of mouth references and do not yet know people in the community. Perfect timing for you to swoop in with your glossy postcard with a fireplace or something like that on the front and a little blurb on the back with your website address on it. Low cost direct marketing for people with money and no other sources for work.

Figure under $1,000 to get a website up and a couple thousand more for a couple of thousand postcards. This is enough marketing materials to keep a 2 man shop busy for years and years.

I was fortunate enough to have a friend of the family who was a project manager for one of these sites. Whenever the buyer would ask for something that the builder doesn't do, he would hand out one of my cards. Anytime I would make a sale, I would give him a small kickback that of course was worked in on the bid in the first place.

Drive around and find some of these sites within an area you are willing to work at. Talk to the project managers and tell them the scenario. Trust me - they will be handing your cards out left and right if you do good work. It is win/win. You get work, he has happy customers and he makes a little cash on the side for doing nothing but recommending you.

We did a home office at one of these places. The install took 3 days. So many people stopped by to inquire about work, I put a card holder on the front of the truck in the driveway so we didn't have to stop every time someone came by.

This is a great niche for the small shop. Once you get bigger, if that is what you want to do, you will change marketing strategies. But for your situation right now, there is an untapped gold mine out there for very little up front money.

From contributor W:
We have been there... Our best resource for kitchen work is a report that we purchase that lists all of the building permits filed for our county. It breaks it down giving us the builder/homeowner's names and addresses as well as the cost of the project, type of project, and building location. We use this info to mail a postcard to each prospect with info about our cabinets. We also use the list to cold call certain prospects within a price range that we have set. It has worked very well for us.

Stay away from print advertising. It is usually a waste. You will always do better when your ad is directly sent to your customer.

Most areas have a report like this. The best way to find out about it is to call around to other building material suppliers. If there is a report in your area, they will be using it as well. I found out about ours from our local masonry/fireplace supplier.